That’s the first word that leapt to my mind watching Aamir last night.
There comes a time when change is necessary. When you feel the staleness of familiarity wash over you and it isn’t pleasant anymore. For Aamir, that change apparently comes a lot faster than for the rest of us. Because he’s following up his concerned school teacher act in Taare Zameen Pe with this – a wild beast let loose on a unsuspecting society, driven by just one thing – revenge.
Everyone knows Ghajini is a remake of a Tamil movie, which is loosely ( and I do mean loosely ) inspired from Memento. How does it fare as a movie to end 2008 ?
Just as we expected it to. It rocks the house.
Ghajini is the tale of a man who having been severely injured finds himself suffering from short-term memory loss of the most pitiful kind : he can only retain his memory for 15 minutes. Thus, we find him constantly trying to keep up with his own world – jotting down notes and taking Polaroid snaps to try and remember. When he’s sure of something, he even tattoos it on his body so that it’s with him forever. It’s a hard life just finding his way back home.
But then, he has other issues on his mind... or rather just one. To find Ghajini – the killer of his love ( Asin ). It is this rage that drives him and it is a berserker rage. He is ready to hunt down people he doesn’t know, strike at strangers he feels are a threat to him and gives no chance for an explanation.
We, as the audience, are treated to his past as two individuals, under entirely different circumstances, read his old diaries, chronicling a different person from the animal they themselves associate with Aamir Khan’s character. The diary reveals a successful Cellular phone MD, a millionaire and how he finds love in a struggling but spunky ad film model. Asin, playing the role for the second time after the Tamil version, reminds you of the same freshness which Genilia brought to Bollywood earlier this year. Her combination of part humanitarian-part prankster tugs not just at Aamir, but also your heart. She has amazing screen presence and this is a great debut role for her. For one, she’s competing alongside a ( ‘the’ ?) Khan and she actually matches him gesture for gesture, often stealing some of the scenes with her charm. The fact that we, as the audience, are privy to a secret she is unaware of makes for many a fun moment.
Another familiar face from the Tamil version is the villain, Pradeep Rawat. Well, the jury maybe out on whether he’s a good enough match for Aamir in his wildebeest mode, but the fact is Ghajini is indeed a vile villain. There is no compassion, very little trace of humanity and a horrific cruelness to his actions. The death of Asin is brutal even to accustomed Sunny Deol movie fans... Personally, I think the director achieved what he set out to do – when you’re making a revenge movie, there has to be someone vile enough to hate in the movie.
Jiah Khan, too, impresses, as the medical student, who inadvertently becomes a catalyst for events that unfolds after stumbling upon Aamir Khan’s medical files. Though I don’t know if I’d say I wish there were more scenes of her in the movie.
Music and background by A.R.Rahman is sweet. Guzarish is, without doubt, the song of the movie, but the other songs too impress. Personally, though I preferred the background score. Cinematography too by R.K. Chandran is a delight capturing the various moods of the movie brilliantly and intelligently.
Overall though, you have to give credit to two people. One, director AR Murugadoss for writing and directing such a unique thriller, for getting such good performances out of his cast and most importantly, from learning from the mistakes of the Tamil version and modifying it this time around.
But, of course, Aamir will , in the end, walk away with his head held high. He’s taken our ‘angry young man’ cliché and rewritten the rule books altogether. I, personally, feel his abs are now the best of the three Khans... talk about being a perfectionist. As for the acting, if you find yourself amused by his millionaire act, then you’re equally uneasy with the person who you first meet in the movie – you root for him to win against the odds, but you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near him. There are few words ever spoken and towards the end, was that grunting I heard ? Creepy.
Critics will lament the excessive violence... that’s kind of like me saying ‘A Walk to Remember’ or ‘Pretty Woman’ didn’t have enough action scenes. You paid to see an action movie...heck, you got an action movie. And a pretty damn good one at that.
Enjoy the ride.
Slumdog Millionaire ****
Well, well well... after Ghajini, here’s another movie set in Mumbai, with the backdrop of memory and love being the key to survival and hope. And yet, it's soooooo different. One's for the masses, the other for the classes.
Slumdog Millionaire has already received rave reviews worldwide since it’s release and there’s even talk of Oscar nominations in the air. It has been listed in Times magazines list of 'Top 10 films of 2008'. It has won over 20 awards since it's release. Funnily enough, it hasn’t released in India, where it’s based.
Anyway, Slumdog Millionaire takes us through the life of Jamal Malik, a teaboy at a callcentre, who, on the verge of winning the gameshow ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ is accused of cheating. Through his eyes, we watch how each question in the show is related to various incidents in his life, starting from his days as a slum kid and beggar. We watch the boy as he grows up, with his self-serving brother and the slumgirl he loves since childhood who suffers silently, Latika and get a glimpse, therein, of Mumbai. Or rather, Bombay.
Did Jamal cheat ? Does he find the girl who fleetingly enters his life so many times just to disappear against his or her will ? How annoying an elder brother can you get ? And oh ya, doeshe actually win the show... or even care to ? Those are questions for which you’d have to watch the movie.
Personally, I’d say hats off to Danny Boyle, the director. We take our group visas and go to all the countries in the world to show ‘dream sequences ’ and here’s this guy, coming from outside and showing us Mumbai as it is in reality. No polish, no sugar coating of the truth... just life. You see our daily obsessions, our tastes, our biases, our passions and yes, even our dark side. He shows us through his camera that he knows us better than even we do, or are ready to admit. Surprisingly, like Ghajini, this too has a few moments that’ll make you cringe. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Unlike what I expected, there is no lagging of the pace – each question brings with it a new memory, a new chapter in Jamal’s life and they carry the story forward to it’s end. Performance wise, well – you have to hand it to the kids who portray the three protagonists in the initial half. They do a tremendous job. 3 actors each play the 3 main characters at different phases of their life and ,thank you God, they do full justice to their roles. I’m not gonna differentiate between the slumdog Dev Patel, his vile excuse of a brother Madhur Mittal or the girl of his dreams Frieda Pinto – they have great script backed roles and all of them do it to perfection.
Among the ‘celebs’, Anil Kapoor as the host of the gameshow is the snob you’d love to hate. His masked insults, his demeanour towards Jamal and even the means he uses to prevent Jamal from winning annoy you. And that is the mark of a true actor.
Irrfan Khan and Saurabh Shukla as the officers interrogating Jamal too add credibility to their characters.
In the end, this is a love story which will win your heart. You may face uneasy moments in between, but you do believe the kid may actually go and win the show. From the looks of it, this movie really may be a good bet for the Oscars for the coming year.
P.S. For those of you who have a high opinion of me, yes, I did go to USA and see the film this weekend as it wasn’t released in India. And yes, that photo in the tabloids really was Paris Hilton sitting beside me in the theatre asking if the Taj Mahal was built by the same guy who made Stonehenge. I returned back by my private jet just this morning.
For those of you who have a low/medium opinion of me, well... drinks, smokes, drugs, women, piracy... oh well, 2 out of 5 ain’t that bad. After all, this is India meri Jaan.
Have a Happy end to 2008, guys. Godspeed.